Thursday, February 26, 2009

Electrical service

This post is a little out of date, but we had our cutover to our new 200 AMP electrical service a week and a half ago. I took some pictures of the friendly utility workers who came by to do some of the work. They actually came by a day early due to an ice storm warning, and did much of the work required then so they didn't have to climb up utility poles the next day. The advantage for us is that instead of having the power out for hours, it was only out for a few minutes on the cutover day because of all the advance work they did.

A couple comments on the new electrical. I love having breakers and not having overloaded circuits! I will say that I'm not a huge fan of arc-fault protectors. The new code requires arc-fault (AFCI) protection for all bedrooms. AFCI's are notorious for tripping and being really touchy with things like lamps and anything with a motor (don't use a reciprocating saw on an AFCI circuit). One of our new AFCI breakers tripped every time we turned on a table lamp. The cause was two wires that were slightly pinched in one of the boxes. Very hard to diagnose and yet another reason to hire professionals to do your wiring.

Also, our electricians insisted that they had to put light switches at 51" (or thereabouts). This meant that all our old light switches need patching as they were at 46-48". They told me this was code, but I can't find a single mention of a height for switch boxes in the code. I'm not happy about this because of all the extra plaster patching that I have to do. We've also noticed that we should have spent more time thinking about where to put switches and plugs in some of the rooms. The electricians put them where they thought they should go, and now that we're using them, we notice that not all of them are best placed.

Interesting architecture outside our window

This is the view from one of the 3rd floor bedrooms (the window is quite dirty, sorry).

Here is a better picture of the structure.

It was built as a Methodist church in 1914, later became a United Church, then after two United churches (within 2 blocks of each other) merged due to low attendance, the building was bought by the city and converted to a community centre. One of the neat features of the community centre is that the very top part of the roof is actually glass and in the evening it looks quite beautiful. The structure was designed by Clarence Burritt, who also designed the Confederation Building in Ottawa.

One of the things we've taken to doing lately is walking around the community exploring the variety of buildings. There are a lot of churches in our area (we live in an area called The Glebe, which means 'church lands'), and a nice selection of late Victorian and Edwardian homes. There's a good mix of detached, semi-detached, row homes, and turn of the century apartment buildings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our Kitchen Is (Almost) Done!

Well it's been a work in progress since we took possession back in December, but our kitchen is finally ready to be used as a kitchen again! We've had to change the appliances (the mustard yellow/avocado green styling's of the fridge and stove weren't exactly to our taste).


On the walls we found a layer of wallpaper with wood grain printed on it (an obvious choice to complement the rest of the actual wood in our house), covering a layer of minty green tile-printed rubbery wall covering. This was stuck to the plaster beneath using a tarry black adhesive that resulted in some pretty awful looking walls once it had all been removed.


This is the result of removing all the wall coverings and flooring and before we patched up the plaster.


And here is that same wall where the fridge and stove once stood.  


On the day we took possession, the previous owners had left all kinds of gems behind which they later picked up.



Beyond the clutter:


Also note the lovely cord hanging down into the middle of the room.  That was a switch that controlled the room’s only light…  Thankfully our new fixture will be controlled by an actual switch on the wall.

And after purchasing some new open-box appliances and a visit to our local Swedish home furnishings store:


The new counters are wood and have turned out great with a few coats of oil.  They need a bit of a sanding as the grain from the wood has come up as it’s absorbed the oil, but after a quick buff it should be smooth and ready to use.

As for the butler’s pantry, the flooring is finished and the walls have been skim coated, but the old cabinets still need a good cleaning and some new countertops.  The sink has also been much improved, not to mention cleaned.  When we took possession the previous owner’s were trying to unplug the sink using a toilet plunger.  Further investigation before we moved in a few weeks ago revealed a drain filled with smelly debris of all types.  After removing all the drain pipe and replacing with new PVC, and replacing the leaky tap we’ve now got a secondary sink we can use for washing and drying dishes, and which I’m surprisingly happy to have.  I really like the drying racks built into the sink.



At some point we’ll probably have it re-enameled.  And one final before and after picture, taken from the butler’s pantry looking into the kitchen.



We’ve still got kick plates, handles, and other things to finish up, but soon our priorities will be shifting to the 2nd floor bath so some of these details will have to wait.

Friday, February 13, 2009

We're in!

We've been so busy moving in and getting settled, that there just hasn't been time for any blog posts the past week.

We managed to complete most of the move over the weekend with our last load being brought over on Monday morning. It is so nice to be in the new house, but it still feels much like a construction zone.

The three of us are sleeping in one room right now, as the rest of the 2nd and 3rd floor rooms are in a shambles. We have only one working bathroom (there are 5 in the house if you include the two school house powder rooms that are falling apart. We are using the cast iron tub up on the 3rd floor while we wait for our main bathroom to assemble itself.

The sink we ordered for our new kitchen was backordered so we hooked up the old kitchen sink (circa 1950's). We had it disconnected by the plumbers when we had started the kitchen demolition, so it took a fair bit of work to get it fixed. After I finally had it hooked up, it stopped draining. It ended up that there was a ton of gross gunk all backed up into the plumbing vent and more it came loose after we started using it again. So, I had to cut out all the drain/vent pipe as far as I could, and redo it, including a new trap and a small cheater vent (AAV) under the sink in case the main vent is backed up further up the line (which is a possibility). The original faucet was badly leaking, so we replaced that too.

Then came the electrical upgrade. The local hydro company came and hooked up our new 200 AMP service, and the electricians ran the new mast and wiring to the new panel and did the switch over. Then they left, without finishing the 60AMP subservice line to the old school houses (no power out there right now), and without properly checking all the plugs and switches (there are 4-5 not working), and not putting any switch and plug covers on (not a good thing with a 2 year-old running around). They are coming back on Monday.

Then the weather warmed up, and our basement flooded from melting ice/snow. There was around 1 inch of water in a few places and most areas of the basement got wet. We were smart enough to elevate all of our belongings we just moved in, but it was not a happy event. The school house flooded as well, which sucks because we have a lot of construction materials out there. And the ice melting off the roof made our driveway dangerous due to the falling chunks of ice sheet. Then a bucket catching water pouring through the sunroom roof fell over and caused water to come through our dining room ceiling.

Fun times. Now I have to do some office work so I can go and hang some more kitchen cabinets so we can put away our food and dishes instead of living out of boxes. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I don't have time to post any. Maybe when I'm in a better mood. Oh ya, the floors turned out great now that they are finally finished. One thing we're happy about.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Move in date...

So, now that the floors are done (they put the last coat of urethane on this morning), we have decided to take the plunge and move in later this weekend. We've been trying to hold off on the move for as long as possible, but our rental lease is almost up, and now that the plumbing, electrical, floors, and new boiler are more or less done, the house should be liveable.

You'll notice in the floor pictures (see previous post) that some of the walls aren't exactly pristine. We ran out of time for plastering and repairing some of the walls, and opted to have the floors done first. Normally, you wait until the rest of the renovation work is done, but with a two-year old running out, we didn't want to have unsealed floors in such poor condition. We're just going to have to put down tarps and paper to keep the mess off the new floors.

We'll have more pictures up of the kitchen and bathroom progress shortly, along with the finished floor (once the top-coat dries). Hopefully we'll be settled in by Monday and then we can start devoting more evening time (when the little one is sleeping) to make progress on the unfinished items on our list.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Refinishing The Hardwood Floors

Over the last few days we've been having our hardwood floors refinished on the main floor. We've got birch flooring in the kitchen and butler's pantry, and red oak in the parlour, living room and dining room. When we moved in, the flooring in the parlour/front hall was covered with a layer of old adhesive, some kind of fibre board, and then some lovely linoleum that was in a bad state. We really had no clue what we'd find under that flooring if we ripped it up, but after working in the space for a number of weeks curiosity got the better of us and decided to have a look.

We were having some problems deciding on a stain colour, and opted in the end for Minwax's Golden Oak stain. We wanted something that would be lighter than all the existing panelling and wood, but not too light. Although it hasn't been sealed yet, we're both very happy with the colour and the way it compliments the walls.

Here are some pics of the parlour floor looking towards the back of the house:

These two shots are looking in the opposite direction from the photos above, back towards the front door in the parlour.

The kitchen flooring had considerably more old adhesive than the parlour flooring, and also had lots more water staining. It had layers of fibre board, vinyl tiling, and then its own style of linoleum floor. It was definitely in the worst shape of all the floors:

Butler's pantry:

Tomorrow the guys are coming back for a final layer of urethane to seal the floor, but here are a few other pictures taken this morning while the sun was streaming into the living room and dining room.

As it turns out, the guys had to fill the cracks in the floor between all 5 sandings, and some areas of water damage required a considerable amount of sanding. In the end, most of the dark black colour was removed, but some of those same boards did take the stain a bit differently than the other boards. I'm of the opinion that it just adds some character to a nice old floor.